Andy Millard has figured out how to be in two places at once. While he's away at conferences, the fee-only advisor still greets clients back home in Tryon, N.C., face-to-face, and will even give them a tour of the exhibit hall - via YouTube.
(Learn more about how to effectively use video by watching Sam Allen's video, How Advisors Can Effectively Use Video to Expand Their Business.)
Millard is not the only advisor using online video to communicate, but he's one of a very few. According to Aite Group analyst Ron Shevlin, a survey last December survey showed that only 6% of advisors surveyed use YouTube professionally.
While the number of advisors who use online video is small, those who do are getting more sophisticated in their approach. They're also seeing benefits for their practices.
Brittney Castro is one of the few advisors to work with a professional. Last September, the Los Angeles-based planner went to a photographer/director (also a friend) to create videos for her website, Financially Wise Women.
Seated in a white chair at a sleek white desk in a gray room, with orchids behind her and a purple pen to match her purple blouse, Castro talks about what makes her a different kind of financial planner and why she focuses on helping women with their finances. Since posting the initial introductory videos and a nine-step series on becoming a financially wise woman, Castro has gotten even more creative with her video content. In January, she launched an Ask the Expert video series that she produces in-house.
Each week, she interviews professional women working in a wide range of industries, from a real estate agent to a social media consultant, about how their different types of work relate to being smart with your money. Through her videos, Castro pledges to be more than just a talking head.
She says she wants to promote other professional women in Los Angeles and offer her clients and prospects a more holistic way of thinking about wealth management. "Being a financially wise woman is about being smart and wise in all areas of your life," she says.
INFORMATION, NOT JOURNALISM
She's not the only one trying to up the ante when it comes to content. For Millard, who's been making online videos since early 2009, the move to bringing in other guests was natural. Though he started with videos of himself simply talking to the camera (and in some cases, he acknowledges, "rambling on"), he learned through trial and error what makes a good video.
Shorter is better and it can't always be "me, me, me," he says. "You get to a point where you're being sort of narcissistic about things."
Instead, he wants to use his videos to show clients exactly what he's doing for them. In doing so, he may be taking advisor videos in a new direction. In video reports from conferences, Millard says he's not trying to be a journalist. Rather, he uses online video to give his clients a behind-the-scenes look at what he does. And, he adds, also to show them that he's not merely kicking back at the pool someplace.
A video isn't as good as an in-person meeting, but Millard says he wants clients to feel like he's having a conversation with them and allows them to hear from him frequently.
This actually saves him time in the long run, he says. Due in large part to the videos, he says, "I don't get many phone calls at the office with people asking, 'What's going on?'"
Consistency matters when it comes to videos, according to advisors who have made video a part of their practice. Once your clients come to expect to see you in videos, it's important to meet those expectations.
This is the case for Rapid City, S.D., fee-only financial planner Rick Kahler, who was probably one of the first advisors to start posting videos online. Shortly after launching his website, he got into video in 2005.
His efforts represent a typical do-it-yourself advisor video. They are weekly webcam addresses from his desk. Nothing fancy - no special camera, lighting or microphone, no other images to cut to, in fact, no real editing at all.
Kahler knows his videos are rudimentary. "I'm like your lowest bottom-feeder of video users," he says. "A third- or fourth-grader could do more with video than I can."
But that hasn't stopped him from diligently creating a video to go with his weekly column for the last few years. His column is distributed to several blogs and five newspapers, with links back to his website where you can watch the video or listen to the audio. Despite the relative success he's had so far through diligence and consistency with his video production, he says he's looking to take his video production to the next level.
Some advisors decide to make video production quality a priority from the beginning. Private wealth management firm Pinnacle Advisory Group in Columbia, Md., is one firm that's taking in-house production quality to new heights.
On a shoestring budget, Pinnacle's marketing director and self-proclaimed "tech nerd" Brian Saint-Paul produced more than a dozen professional-looking videos. With a black sheet for the background in a conference room, lighting by trial and error, and about four to five hours spent on each video, he eventually figured out what worked.
While the production process doesn't sound very glamorous or easy, high-quality production was important to Pinnacle. "The way we present ourselves in marketing says something about us," Saint-Paul says. "If we are claiming to be quality financial planners, to be quality wealth managers, that quality has to be on display in every communication to the public."
Pinnacle revamped and re-launched their new, video-laden website in December. Almost immediately, Saint-Paul says they are seeing excellent results. In the first month alone, he says, they achieved what he hoped they could do in six months - the number of prospects coming from online has matched the number of word-of-mouth referrals.
Naturally, the success these advisors measure depends on their goals. As with Pinnacle, Castro primarily designed her videos to gain wider visibility with clients and prospective clients. It's worked. Since she began posting videos, she has seen an increase in her Google search rankings and received 26 requests for consultations, she says. Of those 26, six have become clients.
Kahler says that aside from his weekly commentaries, the videos most helpful to his practice are private client videos in which he guides clients through various forms and exercises. With about two to three hours' worth of forms for new clients, the time saved for Kahler and the increased efficiency for clients is vital to his ability to take on new business.
From a marketing perspective, Kahler says his hunch is that online video and other types of social media are worth it for advisors, but only time will tell how much return on investment planners will see from these different forms of communication. "It's not for everyone," he says, "but I've used it very successfully."
Video, of course, doesn't have to be used primarily for attracting new business. Millard, for example, says his goal is not to drive traffic to his website, get tons of views or attract new clients. Instead, he uses video to communicate with the clients he already has.
"The big impact is that clients feel more in touch with me, it ups the comfort level and satisfaction level," Millard explains. "The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive for the videos."
Samantha Allen is managing director of Investius, where she reports, blogs and produces online videos about finance.